View from Washington: Mercedes-Benz Unit Takes on U.S. Charging Deficit

First Up 02/21/24

View from Washington: Mercedes-Benz Unit Takes on U.S. Charging Deficit

Charging anxiety continues to be a major barrier to electric vehicle adoption in the U.S., and the chief executive of Mercedes-Benz's EV charging joint venture is on a mission to relieve some of the worry. "About 50 percent of prospective EV buyers still are not buying electric vehicles because of charging," said Andrew Cornelia, CEO of Mercedes-Benz High-Power Charging North America, a partnership between the Germany luxury automaker and renewable energy company MN8 Energy. "This is what we're trying to solve," he told Automotive News. The joint venture launched its first North American charging hub in November at Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters in Sandy Springs, Ga., near Atlanta. Eight others are now operating at Buc-ee's travel centers in states such as Alabama, Florida, and Texas. The effort is part of a more than $1 billion investment by the two partners to install 2,500 chargers across 400 charging hubs throughout the U.S. and Canada by 2030. Cornelia summed up the EV infrastructure challenge in two words: quantity and quality. As of Feb. 14, there were about 180,000 public charging ports scattered across more than 65,000 station locations in the U.S., according to U.S. Energy Department data. Click here for the full story.

Dealerships' Parts and Service Revenue Booms

Parts and service revenues increase for the six publicly traded new-car dealership groups in the fourth quarter, partially offsetting the effect of lower gross profit per vehicle for new and used vehicles – especially for new, as new-vehicle inventory has increased. Tom Szlosek, AutoNation chief financial officer, says all categories of parts and service work have shown an increase, especially customer-pay, the most profitable category. “Customer-pay, warranty and internal all experienced double-digit year-over-year growth. The value per order is improving, and our total number of repair orders has also increased,” he says in a recent earnings conference call. As a group, parts, and service revenue for the six companies was about $3.9 billion in the fourth quarter, an increase of 5.3 percent vs. the fourth quarter of 2022, reports Wards. For all of 2023, parts and service revenue were about $15.4 billion for the group, up 7.7 percent. Revenue numbers in this story are on a same-store basis. AutoNation, based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, reports $1.1 billion in parts and service revenue for the fourth quarter, an increase of 8.7 percent vs. a year earlier. For 2023, parts and service revenue was $4.4 billion, up 8.8 percent. Click here for the full story.

EV Charging Void Has Drivers Trying New Routes to Power Up

Electric vehicle drivers unable to install a charger at home are turning instead to stopgaps offered by U.S. and European firms as alternatives to often expensive or inconvenient public charging points. The solutions include online platforms allowing people to rent out their chargers, "pavement gullies" for properties with no driveways and even mobile charging. While such services could put a dent in the global public charging infrastructure problem, they will not achieve the massive scale required to solve it any time soon, reports Reuters. Many prospective owners are avoiding EVs and sticking with fossil-fueled cars, a major factor slowing EV demand globally. Ride-sharing giant Uber opens new tab has earmarked $800 million through 2025 to help its drivers switch to EVs but has found that many live in urban "charging deserts", said Uber's global sustainability head Thibaud Simphal. Uber said its efforts to partly finance local authorities' charging projects have been bogged down by bureaucracy. Click here for the full story.

Mazda Embraces California Vibe for New Innovation Center in Tokyo

When Tomiko Takeuchi led development of the Mazda MX-30 compact crossover, a chance encounter in California led to one of the vehicle's trademark features: its freestyle doors. Takeuchi was at an open workspace area in San Francisco when she struck up a dialogue with a bicycle designer. In trading ideas with someone outside the auto industry, she was inspired to try something new. The outcome was the MX-30's opposite-swinging front and rear doors. Now, Takeuchi is Mazda Motor Corp.'s executive officer in charge of global human resources. And her latest project is meant to replicate that free-flowing idea generation back in Japan. Enter the just-christened Mazda Innovation Space Tokyo, an idea-creation hub in downtown Tokyo's upscale Roppongi entertainment district. Nestled high above the bustling capital in a landmark skyscraper, the new office is part glitzy recruiting center, part lofty dream factory, repots Automotive News. "We are first creating an environment that inspires each and every one of our employees to passionately commit themselves to their endeavors," Takeuchi said. "Then, from here at Mazda Innovation Space Tokyo, that positive energy will transcend the automobile industry." Click here for the full story.

BlackBerry Has a Master Plan to Control all Automotive Operating Systems

BlackBerry, the smartphone brand that was once more popular than Apple, wants to expand its presence in the automotive space with a new operating system developed to unify various OS types under a single platform. John Wall, the company's head of Internet of Things, has been reaching out to auto executives to allow BlackBerry to build their operating system, reports Carbuzz. Dubbed Project Green internally, the goal is to provide automakers with a "non-differentiating" operating system for cars amid the software-defined vehicle era championed by the likes of the Kia EV9. The company would make sure the software works with any hardware, and it would purchase and examine software from outside suppliers before selling these to automakers. In turn, the program would allow automakers to focus on creating software applications that cater to the needs of their respective customers. This could be very useful in the age of autonomous vehicles. "The endgame that everyone is playing towards is going from 100 to, at some point, one central computer that does everything," said Wall. Click here for the full story.


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